Throne of God Amun
The astounding number of well-preserved monuments of the city of Luxor makes it one of the world’s most important archeological sites. Its ancient Egyptian name was “Waset”, but it is better known today by what the ancient Greeks called it: Thebes, or the Thousand-gated Thebes. The modern name “Luxor”, is derived from what the Arabs called it in 641 AD, “al-Aqsur” (the palaces), when they stood in awe of the city’s ancient temples believing they were palaces.
Already during the Old Kingdom (c. 2686 - 2181 BC), “Waset” was the capital of the 4th Upper Egyptian nome (administrative unit equivalent to a governorate). King Mentuhotep II (c.2055–2004 BC) founder of the 11th Dynasty succeeded in reunifying Egypt after a period of turbulence, and he made Thebes the capital of the country, and it remained so until the reign of the first king of the 12th Dynasty, Amenemhat I (c.1985–1955 BC). Waset was the main center for the worship of the god Amun-Ra. The temple of Karnak became the seat of his throne on earth, and even with the transfer of the capital to Ithet-Tawy (near al-Lisht, between the Faiyum and Memphis) during the 12th Dynasty, Waset retained its great religious status as the center of the worship of Amun-Ra, the king of the gods. Thebes was inscribed by the UNESCO as part of a World Heritage Site in 1979.
Capital of the Empire
Towards the end of the Second Intermediate Period (c.1650 - 1550 BC), when the Hyksos were in control of the Delta, Thebes led the armed struggle against them until its kings were able to liberate the country. During the 18th Dynasty (c.1550 - 1295 BC), Egypt formed a vast empire with Thebes as its capital city.
This new political situation led to an influx of wealth into Egypt from foreign countries. Because of its preeminent position as the seat of the ruling king and the cult center of Amun-Re, Thebes received the largest share of this wealth. It became one of the biggest Egyptian cities, stretching for 4 kilometers in length on the eastern bank of the Nile. The city’s neighborhoods surrounded Luxor Temple in the south and the temples of Karnak in the north.
The hills of the west bank became the last resting place of the city’s inhabitants. Hundreds of tombs of the Theban nobility are spread over several sites such as Sheikh ‘Abd al-Qurna, while the royal tombs are located further west, in the Valley of the Kings. The village of the workmen and artists who made these tombs lay near-by, at Deir al-Medina. Although Thebes lost some of its prestige with the onset of the Late Period (664 - 332 BC) as a result of the capital being moved to the Delta, it still maintained its spiritual aura until the end of the Roman period, in the late 4th century AD.